Union Minister of State Minister of State for Civil Aviation and former Army Chief General VK Singh has said that Technical Support Division (TSD), a military intelligence unit that was later disbanded, could have bettered a lot of things and he considers it a shame that it was taken off.
TSD was an Indian Military Intelligence unit formed when Gen VK Singh was the Army chief.
In an exclusive interview with ANI, the former Army Chief said anything which deals with intelligence is both clandestine, secretive "and also it is supposed to do certain tasks every intelligence outfit that you take".
"First time, the discussion came up was with the then Director General of Military Intelligence (DGMI). It came up because I was talking about the Mumbai thing 26/11, about how we could have done things better...He said that well at the end of it, the NSA had called the Chief, and asked what could you do on it. And they said nothing, not our mandate. After all, you are mandated to say 'military intelligence is supposed to look after only this area, other agencies will look after that area, so that there is no clash. My thinking is the work of any military agency will always have an overlap. If you do not have overlap, you will miss out on things".
Gen VK Singh, who was the Army Chief between March 2010 and May 31, 2012, said that the idea was to have an intelligence outfit that should be more focused on human intelligence.
"We talked about it, and the idea came up that we should have an intelligence outfit which should be more human intelligence-oriented, should be able to have reliable sources on the other side, who should be able to give you the type of information you are looking for, which is inimical to the country. And, information flow should become. Once, this was clear, we decided let' form a pilot project, because till the time you don't try it out, you don't want to make it permanent. So, it was a pilot project, it was called 'TSD', for want of anonymity. I think our motivation came from 'R&AW'. So, it became Technical Support Division, there was nothing technical about it. It was all based on human intelligence," he said.
Gen VK Singh said that they decided to choose the best people for the job after thoroughly scrutinising them.
"And we chose the best people, the people whom we thoroughly scrutinised in terms of the work they have done, in terms of the output they had, and whether they will fit into this, the idea, that we had. Once we had chosen the commanding officer, he was given free hand to choose people. So that, he has the trust, because any outfit like this, survives on trust, on professionalism, but will not survive on acrimony. Acrimony that stretches the seams of the organisation. They chose, they got all the support, and they did a tremendous amount of work. It's a shame that it was done away. The type of work they did, had we continued with that, a lot of things which would have become better. Lot of things," Gen VK Singh added.
"As the organisation grows, the intelligence and the other types of things will grow, will cooperate with other agencies, and then the canvas becomes different. We were sharing our inputs, where we felt we needed action, from an external agency. We shared our inputs, we told them this is what is happening, you better take action," he added.
Asked if he had meetings with the then Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) on TSD and whether the PM had ever asked about the cross-border operations, he said, "No, why should I? It is a pilot project, we are sharing information. If I gave a certain amount of information to the NSA, I told them this is from my agency, he was not asking which agency has given you. The PM of that time was not interested in 'kisne mara'? I will put it that way."
The former Army Chief said, "I had talked of Maldives, that information was from my agency, not from anybody else. The assessment of my agency was 150 per cent right. They said Abdulla Yameen ( former President of Maldives) will not toe our line, Yameen will go with China. And that was not the assessment on the level at which hard decision-making is done. That was not the assessment at NSA level".
The Congress-led UPA government was in power from 2004 to 2014.
Responding to the allegations of surveillance against TSD, Gen VK Singh, who is also Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways, said, "Accusations, you can do anything, you can put a vehicle. The problem is somebody right from big name, and once he got associated with, especially once he got involved in particular things. It was in his interest to somehow, bring that defamation thing. Now, how do you do it? Coup was not going to stick. So, 'He was snooping on the ministers'. Nothing. What is there to bug into Defence Minister's Office, you could walk up to Defence Minister and talk to him what you wanted to. What is there to be bugged? I still can't understand it".
On being asked if he has any regrets, the union minister said that he only wanted to do something for the country.
"You could have not done anything, just relax, going to the cocktail circuit. Forget about the nation, what difference does it make? You have reached a pinnacle in the service, just remain there, and just go out. What difference does it make? But, unfortunately, that is not my make-up. I wanted to do something. And that's why I said, had this agency stayed, you would have found a difference. Ten years, they would have created a tremendous amount of work, in all our areas, not just one," he said.
Gen VK Singh, who is MP from Ghaziabad, said that sources play a very important role in the working of an intelligence outfit, and works on trust.
"Every area was being taken care of. Our expertise was developing. We had developed plan to develop expertise with selected people, with what they would do. All that is gone. And, anybody who deals with intelligence and has done a fair amount of work, has seen things, make sources. Source is like most loyal dog you can have. One man that will give you that information, it takes time to build that trust, that I am not going to give up on him, and he is not going to give up on me. The day that goes away, you can't recruit him again," he said.
Whether the idea of TSD, should be revived, to this the former Army Chief said that it should be left to those at the helm of it.
"See, let's leave it to the people who are at the helm of this. It's a very serious matter, what you do, what you plan, what your aim is. As Chief at that time, my aim was very simple. These are my enemies, this is what is likely to happen. What is that I can do to contribute towards that? I can gather intelligence, I can carry out certain things, which will pre-empt certain things happening at my country. All with the best possible manpower that you could have selected, and all whom you could trust."
Talking about the trauma faced by those involved, in their private lives, once the idea of TSD was taken off, Gen VK Singh said, "That's what pains me the most. They were singled out, because I think they didn't like the person who created. I take it as personal. Their agony was my agony, if they spent sleepless nights, I also spent sleepless nights, because I could feel their pain, and pain for doing something for the country. We were not doing anything personal, there was nothing personal involved in this. You drive a person to become a psyche case. You get after a person, you put wrong charges".
"Let me take you back to a similarity in the Samba spy case. What happened then? Our own people destroyed our own people, made stories out of it. Here, the pain was the same. They just wanted someone to say that 'Chief told us to snoop on A, B, C'," he added.
He also said that it is up to the individuals to take lessons and see when they reach responsible positions, they are able to do things right.
General V K Singh donned many hats before turning to be a full-time politician. Coming from a family of soldiers, Singh served 42 years in the Indian Army, which saw him on the front lines of combat, in the Indo-Pak War of 1971 and also in Sri Lanka as part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force. He has seen awarded Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal and Yudh Seva Medal.
General Singh also joined India Against Corruption movement with Anna Hazare but moved on to the BJP. (ANI)